Thursday, December 17, 2015

Blog Roundup: Star Wars and the Law

What does this week's much-anticipated opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens have to do with the law? Perhaps more than you expect.  In fact, quite a few legal scholars and attorney bloggers have explored how the epic franchise illuminates many different aspects of the law, including the following.

Property Law: Who owns the rights to the blue lightsaber owned by Anakin Skywalker, collected by Obi-Wan Kenobi, given to and lost by Luke Skywalker, and apparently seen in trailers for The Force Awakens?  From The Legal Geek:

Yes, fans might want to know where that lightsaber is, but for that matter, who actually owns the lightsaber? For that answer the lightsaber must be analyzed through the intricate lense that is property law. 

Tax Law: Can tax policy change the galaxy?  From the BNA Federal Tax Blog:

Before there could be a clone war, a Skywalker losing some limbs in a light saber duel, a Death Star, a Death Star blowing up, another Skywalker losing a limb in a light saber duel and another Death Star blowing up, there was—and, believe me, the Star Wars fan in me wishes I was making this up—a tax controversy. 

Criminal Law: Can Darth Vader be held responsible for murder, false imprisonment, burglary, or other crimes? From The Findlaw Blotter:

The first scene in Star Wars opens with Darth boarding Princess Leia's ship, looking for stolen structural plans of the Death Star. The crime of burglary is defined as the unauthorized breaking and entry into a building or occupied structure with the intent to commit a crime inside. Vader and other Imperial troops, like common thieves in the night, blast their way on to Leia's ship with the intent of stealing the Death Star's plans. 

Constitutional Law: How is the creation of Star Wars like the creation of constitutional law? From scholar Cass Sunstein:

[T]he composition, and its multiple twists and turns, tell us a great deal about the nature of the production of narratives in general, including those that have many authors, such as constitutional law. 

. . .

Whether Jedi or Sith, the authors of constitutional law are a lot like the author of Star Wars, disguising the essential nature of their own creative processes. 

Check back soon for our next post exploring judicial opinions involving Star Wars.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Estate Planning Post-Divorce

One of the most important reasons young parents create an estate plan is to name a guardian for their minor children in the event that both parents die before the children reach the age of majority. If the parents are divorced, their individual wills may name a guardian who is not the ex-spouse. Who would become the guardian of the children?

Throughout Ohio’s juvenile code, a court is required to make custody decisions based on “the best interest of the child.” In custody hearings between parents and non-parents, Ohio courts have also established a general rule that the child’s best interest is to be cared for by his or her parent. However, parental custody is not in the child’s best interest if, for example, the parent has abandoned the child, is unable to provide support, or is otherwise unsuitable. (See In re Perales, 52 Ohio St. 2d 89 (Ohio 1977))

To determine the child’s best interest and the parent’s suitability, the court would have a number of factors to consider. For example, the court would take into account a divorced mother’s will which names a grandmother as guardian. However, it would also examine the children’s relationship with their father: Does he live nearby or out of state? Is he involved with parenting? Physically violent? The couple’s divorce or custody orders may also provide important information for the court to review.

Bottom line? If you are divorced, it is essential to consult an attorney when making your estate plans to ensure that your wishes regarding your children are best reflected in your estate documents.